MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State begins its 113th season of baseball and the 10th under head coach Brad Hill with the first of consecutive trips to South Carolina to play in The Citadel Memorial Challenge, Friday-Sunday, February 15-17, at Riley Park in Charleston, S.C. This weekend's tournament marks the second time in four seasons K-State will open the year at The Citadel after going 2-1 in the event in 2010. The 2013 season opener is slated for an 11 a.m. (CT) first pitch Friday against High Point before the Cats take on The Citadel at 3 p.m., Saturday and George Mason at 9 a.m., Sunday.
Sunday's contest can be heard in the Manhattan area on SportsRadio 1350 KMAN with Rob Voelker and Ryan Lackey on the call. All three games can be heard online at both www.k-statesports.com and www.1350kman.com, including the Friday and Saturday games that will be available exclusively online.
K-State is coming off a sixth-straight postseason appearance as the Wildcats won four of their final six Big 12 games to grab the final spot in the 2012 Big 12 Championship. And although Kansas State must quickly adjust 18 newcomers to Division I baseball, the Wildcats do return plenty of starting experience in the field, including 2012 All-Big 12 performers Jared King and Tanner Witt. King, who was a second-team honoree last year, has earned numerous preseason accolades, including All-America honors from Baseball America and Perfect Game. Witt, one of four seniors on the squad, was a Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection last year and a preseason All-Big 12 pick by College Sports Madness.
Aside from King and Witt, the Wildcats see four other regular starters from last year return in catcher Blair DeBord, second baseman Ross Kivett, third baseman RJ Santigate and outfielder Jon Davis. Additionally, first baseman Shane Conlon and outfielder Mitch Meyer are also back after sitting out a majority of last year with injuries.
The Wildcats are expected to start sophomore right-hander Nate Williams on Friday, senior left-hander Joe Flattery on Saturday and sophomore right-hander Matt Wivinis on Sunday. Williams, the team's closer last year, has transitioned into a starting pitcher since the summer. The Valley Center, Kan., product had six saves last year to break the K-State record by a freshman, a mark that was held by former All-American James Allen in 2009. Flattery, a former junior-college pitcher, held a 6-4 record and 4.37 ERA last year. The Fort Dodge, Iowa, native saved his best stuff for the end of the year as he allowed three or fewer runs in six or more innings in his final three regular-season starts, including a complete-game victory at Texas Tech en route to Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors.
Wivinis appeared in 21 games as a freshman in 2012, including three starts, as he went 1-3 with a 5.95 ERA. His first career start was a predetermined pinch-count victory over Hartford when he allowed two runs on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 4.1 innings. He also started at Nebraska and the final regular-season contest at Texas Tech.
DID YOU KNOW K-State will look to win its fifth-straight season opener for the first time in 100 years (1909-13). Kansas State is 8-4 in opening-weekend games since 2009, including a 2-1 record in the 2010 Citadel Memorial Challenge. Brad Hill enters 2013 seventh in the nation among active coaches with a .692 career winning percentage. The Wildcats have 18 newcomers to this year's squad. The last time they had as many as 18 on the roster was 2009 when K-State won a school-record 43 games and advanced to its first NCAA Regional. The Wildcat pitching staff reached double digits in strikeouts in eight Big 12 games last year, the most by K-State since 1997. K-State averaged one double play per game in 2012 to lead the Big 12 and rank 19th nationally. The Wildcats also ranked in the top 30 of the NCAA in walks (18th), steals (11th) and fielding percentage (27th). Jared King captured the Big 12 regular-season batting title with a .378 mark. He became the second Wildcat in a three-year span to accomplish the feat, joining Nick Martini in 2010.
OFFENSIVELY SPEAKING Kansas State has plenty of weapons returning offensively for the 2013 season. The Wildcats bring back four of their top five hitters from last year, including Big 12 regular-season batting champion Jared King. Of the top 10 offensive categories, head coach Brad Hill sees no worse than 59 percent of last year's production back in six areas, while the team leader in seven of the 10 categories are back for 2013. The most significant number in terms of returning production is steals as 70.2 percent returns from 2012, including four of the top five base stealers. The Wildcats also have 60.3 percent of their hit production back, including a 68.2 percent mark in doubles.
The area in which Kansas State must develop young talent is in the pitching staff as it has no category other than saves that has at least 60 percent of last year's production back in 2013. The biggest area in which K-State must have younger players rise is in games started as the Cats only have 28 of their 58 starts back from last year after losing 14-game starter Kayvon Bahramzadeh and 11-game starter Matt Applegate.
K-STATE AND THE PALMETTO STATE K-State will be making a pair of trips to South Carolina to open the 2013 campaign, marking the third and fourth appearances in The Palmetto State over the last four seasons. During the recent span in South Carolina, the Wildcats hold a 4-3 mark as they went 2-1 at The Citadel Memorial Challenge in 2010 and 2-2 at the Baseball at the Beach tournament, hosted by Coastal Carolina, in 2011. The Wildcats will return to Myrtle Beach next week to take on nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina and Kentucky, as well as Elon. Two of the four victories in K-State's recent South Carolina history were against the host schools as K-State topped the Bulldogs, 2-1, on Feb. 21, 2010, and upset the 17th-ranked Chanticleers, 5-4, on Feb. 24, 2011. Other victories were against Delaware in 2010 and Pacific in 2011. Prior to the Wildcats' trip to The Citadel in 2010, K-State had played just three games in the state of South Carolina, a three-game sweep at the hands of Clemson in 1999.
HIGH POINT AT A GLANCE High Point is coming off 28-31 season, including an 11-13 mark in Big South play to finish in a tie for seventh. The Panthers, who are receiving votes from Collegiate Baseball, are experienced as they return 24 letterwinners, including seven position starters and 12 pitchers. Last season, High Point hit .270 as a team and was active offensively by recording 61 sacrifice bunts and stealing 84 bases. Senior shortstop Willie Medina is the top returning hitter at .310 with 11 doubles and 26 RBI. Senior Sean Wilson, the cousin of former K-State great Craig Wilson, is also back after hitting .296 with 12 doubles and 17 RBI.
The Panthers are expected to open the season with senior right-hander Jacob Newberry on the mound. Newberry pitched in 14 games a year ago with 13 starts, going 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA over 78.1 innings of work. Junior right-hander Jamie Schultz anchors the bullpen following a year in which he went 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA and six saves in 23 outings.
THE CITADEL AT A GLANCE Another squad with plenty of returning experience, The Citadel brings back 22 letterwinners and seven position players from a squad that went 25-33 overall and 13-17 in Southern Conference play last season. Guided by 21-year head coach Fred Jordan, the Bulldogs are looking to improve off a tie for seventh in the SoCon last season. Catcher Joe Jackson is the top returning hitter after a .279 campaign in 2012 with a team-high 15 doubles, four triples, one homer and 26 RBI. Junior Tyler Griffin is the returning leader in home runs (4) and RBI (30) while hitting .231 a year ago.
The Citadel will start sophomore left-hander James Reeves on Saturday. Last season, Reeves saw time in 22 games with five starts while accumulating a 6-4 record and a 4.44 ERA over 52.2 innings of work. Senior right-hander Ryan Hines spearheads the Bulldog bullpen as he held a 3-1 record and 3.51 ERA to go along with seven saves during a SoCon-best 36 appearances in 2012.
GEORGE MASON AT A GLANCE Also guided by a long-time head coach, George Mason enters the 2013 season fresh off a 33-24 campaign in 2012 in which the Patriots went 16-14 in Colonial Athletic Association play to finish fourth. Led by 31-year skipper Bill Brown, George Mason sees 20 of 28 letterwinners returning from last season, including six position starters. Three of the top five hitters from last year are gone, including 15-homer, 51-RBI slugger Zack Helgeson. Senior Nick Allen returns as the top hitter for the Patriots, a year after finishing third on the squad with a .321 average.
Along with hitting power, GMU must also replace a majority of its bullpen as Chris O'Grady - who had 14 saves in 2012 - is gone. Junior left-hander Jake Kalish is the top returning reliever after going 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA and five saves in 19 games. The Patriots have not announced a starter for Sunday morning. George Mason's top returning starting pitcher is junior right-hander Anthony Montefusco, who was 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts in 2012.
THE HIGH POINT SERIES Friday's season opener against High Point is the first in the series between the Panthers and Wildcats. Against current members of the Big South, Kansas State holds a 2-0 record by topping Liberty in 1989 and No. 17 Coastal Carolina in 2011. That season, the Wildcats took a 5-4 victory over the Chanticleers, while K-State will take on CCU again next Friday in the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
THE CITADEL SERIES K-State holds a 1-0 record against The Citadel after winning a 2-1 affair on February 21, 2010. In that contest, Wildcat left-hander Kyle Hunter allowed a single run through 8.1 innings with three strikeouts and no walks. He retired the first 12 batters he faced in the contest and exited after allowing a run with one out in the ninth. James Allen came in to retire the final two Bulldogs for the win. K-State's two runs came in the early stages of the game as Jake Brown singled home Matt Giller in the second, while Mike Kindel was hit with the bases loaded in the third.
The Citadel is the first of two Southern Conference foes that K-State will face to open the season as the Wildcats take on Elon next Saturday. K-State's win over The Citadel two years ago is the only contest against a SoCon team in program history prior to this year.
THE GEORGE MASON SERIES Just like the High Point contest, Sunday's game against George Mason is the first in the series between K-State and the Patriots. The Wildcats hold a perfect 4-0 mark against current teams from the Colonial Athletic Association, including an 11-5 win against Delaware in the 2010 Citadel Memorial Challenge. The next weekend, Kansas State scored a 6-1 victory over Northeastern.
LID LIFTERS The 2013 Wildcats will try to accomplish a feat Friday against High Point that hasn't been done at Kansas State in 100 years. K-State is in search of its fifth-straight season-opening win, which would mark the first time the Cats won five-straight lid lifters since 1909-13. The current streak started with a 16-2 win at Houston in 2009 and continued with an 11-5 win over Delaware in 2010, a 5-3 triumph at Pacific in 2011 and a 7-5 victory in 11 innings at CSU Bakersfield last season.
Due to a loss at California in the 2008 opener, K-State has won six of its last seven Opening Day contests, the first time the Wildcats have done so since 1986-92 seasons. The Cats are looking to win seven of its previous eight season openers for the first time since 1939-49 (K-State did not play baseball from 1943-45 due to World War II).
OPENING WEEKEND SUCCESS Kansas State has enjoyed fast starts over the past four years as the Wildcats are 8-4 during opening weekends since 2009. K-State went 2-1 against Houston in 2009 before winning two of three at The Citadel Memorial Challenge in 2010, topping Delaware and The Citadel while falling to East Tennessee State. After sweeping a road series at Pacific to open up 2011, the Wildcats slipped at CSU Bakersfield last season by dropping two of three.
QUICK STARTS With 18 newcomers and 19-straight home games in the month of March, it is important for the Wildcats to get off to a quick start this season as 16 of their final 22 games are on the road. Fortunately for K-State, history will be on its side as the Cats are 206-79 (.723) in non-conference games under head coach Brad Hill, including a 96-42 (.696) mark over the past four seasons. In regular season non-conference games, the Cats have been even tougher as they are 194-62 (.758) over the past nine years and 87-29 (.750) from 2009-12.
RUNNIN' CATS K-State, which led the Big 12 in steals over a three-year stretch before finishing second in the conference last season, looks to continue its aggressive approach on the base paths in 2013. The Wildcats return three players in Ross Kivett (25), Tanner Witt (20) and Jared King (16) that stole over 15 bags in 2012. All three players are within reach of the school's career top-10 mark, led by Witt's 36, which is just seven shy of the top 10. As a team, the Wildcats have ranked in the top 20 nationally in steals each of the last five years, including a second-place mark in 2009 with a school record 149. Last season, the Wildcats were 11th in total steals with 104 a year after finishing fifth nationally with 123.
PRODUCTION WITH TWO OUTS K-State was productive late in innings as nearly 40-percent of its RBI (122-of-310) came with two outs. K-State's season-high in two-out RBI was nine against San Diego State on February 25, while its Big 12 high was seven in the conference opener at Texas A&M on March 16. Individually, Wade Hinkle led the way with 24, which was the most by a Wildcat since Justin Bloxom had 27 in 2009. Hinkle was also the Wildcat career leader among players in 2012 with 37. Jared King opens the 2013 season as the active career leader with 34.
KING PULLS IN HONORS A season after leading the Big 12 during the regular season with a .378 batting average, junior Jared King has gained national attention entering the 2013 season. The outfielder has been named a preseason All-American by both Baseball America and Perfect Game, and the accolade from Baseball America was especially impressive considering the fact that the teams were voted on by Major League Baseball scouting directors. Baseball America also slotted King as the 39th best prospect nationally among juniors.
Other honors for King entering the 2013 season were being named the Big 12's best player by College Baseball Today and Perfect Game as well as the conference player of the year, best pure hitter, best athlete and best defensive outfielder by Baseball America. Additionally, Perfect Game lists King as the fifth-best prospect, but tops among position players, in the Big 12 among players eligible for this year's draft.
FROM CLOSER TO STARTER Sophomore pitcher Nate Williams will need a different mentality when he takes the mound this year. The Valley Center, Kan., product is moving from the team's closer role a year ago to a weekend starter during his second campaign. A highly-regarded high school pitcher, Williams was impressive as a rookie in 2012 as he tallied a K-State freshman record six saves in 23 outings, ranking fifth in the Big 12 in saves and ninth overall in Kansas State history. The move to a starting role began immediately following his freshman season as the right-hander was a starter for the Topeka Golden Giants last summer, earning a 6-0 record and a 3.52 ERA in 53.2 innings of work.
SPRINGBOARD TO 2013 Senior starting pitcher Joe Flattery is hoping that the end of the 2012 season is a stepping stone to a solid final collegiate campaign. The left-hander, who was 6-4 with a 4.37 ERA, was outstanding his final three regular season contests as he went 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA, allowing three or fewer earned runs over six or more innings pitched in each start. His lone loss during the stretch was a 6-0 shutout loss despite giving up only three earned runs over 6.2 innings.
The Fort Dodge, Iowa, native bounced back from that loss to pitch K-State into the Big 12 Championship as he threw a complete game at Texas Tech in a 5-1 victory. Flattery was working on a shut out until surrendering a run with two outs in the ninth inning. His performance against the Red Raiders gave him the final Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honor in 2012.